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A Little Fight Music: The Mood Music of ‘Luke Cage’

lukeIt is safe to say at this point that Marvel’s Luke Cage is a force of nature. It’s already took down the streaming service on the first Saturday it was available due to the high demand…and for good reason. Like the hero at the center of the gritty drama, the superhero series continues Marvel’s evolution into the small screen universe, creating a character that is practically unbreakable.

Behind the compelling storytelling of the former lawman who becomes an impossible-to-kill superhero, there is music. Music sets the scene, it creates the mood, it is a character unto itself. Unlike past Marvel properties, music is a major component to the series, almost as much as the location and the supporting players.

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As Cottonmouth’s club Harlem’s Paradise pump’s out tune after tune of ear candy or Wu-Tang Clan plays over complicated choreographed fight scenes, Marvel’s Luke Cage is propelled by the music, beautifully moving its players rhythmically through the storyline.

The music is a necessary component to the story, which is much darker than any previous Marvel endeavor. Luke Cage isn’t an anti-hero like Deadpool or tragic like Jessica Jones, he isn’t a bitter humorist like Tony Stark. He is a hero. One who has been tested time and time again.

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As we get his origin story, we realize that Luke Cage is a tragic figure. He was jailed unjustly. He was beaten and mutilated time and time again, but his spirit was never broken. Evil people have tried to kill him many times over. And people he has loved were taken from him. And yet, he has persevered.

The show is dark. The compelling drama is dependent on Cage and the entire cast of characters to bring audiences into the fold of the Cage universe. In that, it succeeds in spades.

However, if you are looking for the comic relief one might find with the Froggy or even with horrific off-hand remarks of Kilgrave, look elsewhere. That just does not exist in the world of Luke Cage.

Instead, the drama used  to music to elevate the mood. The boost you might get from a chuckle you get from a well-placed Faith Evans or Miles Davis tune. It brings levity to the characters who face a dark world day after day, and in turn allows the audience a moment to catch its breath.

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In the world of Luke Cage, music is the pulse of the universe. It sets the stage. Laughter and humor is rare and far in between the sad and harsh reality of the brutality of day to day living. But music is living and sets the tone throughout the series.

Here are just a few great musical moments for your playlist:

“Good Man” – Raphael Saddiq (“Good Man,” Episode 1)

First performance at Harlem’s Paradise as Luke washes dishes then bartends and audiences are introduced to Cottonmouth.

“Mesmermized” – Faith Evans (“Code of the Streets,” Episode 2)

The legendary Evans takes to the mic at the Paradise as Cage does his best to protect Chico and Pops.

“Bring Da Ruckus” – Wu-Tang Clan (“Who’s Gonna Take the Weight,” Episode 3)

Luke uses the Wu-Tang to pump himself up for battle as he takes down Cotton’s forces without killing a single dude. Great scene with perfect choice of music.

“It Serves You Right To Suffer” – The Avener & John Lee Hooker (“Just To Get A Rap,” Episode 5)

Blues tune serves as a backdrop between the events of prepping for Pop’s funeral and Luke prepping for the service, like a knight for battle.

“Trouble of the World” – Mahalia Jackson (“Just To Get A Rap,” Episode 5)

Used several time in the episode. Both when Luke notices that he messed up his fine suit after trying to clear his name and during the funeral when he honored his friend while destroying Cotton in front of an audience.

“King of New York” – Ghostface Killa (“Blowin’ Up the Spot,” Episode 8)

A great song choice to represent the rising in the ranks of Shades to a man of power.

“Bulletproof Love” – Method Man (“Soliloquy of Chaos”, Episode 12)

The anthem of Luke Cage. Already released as a single for the show, the song talks about the importance of Cage as a symbol of the people as a bulletproof black man who fights for the everyday man.

“100 Days, 100 Nights” – Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (“Moment of Truth”, Episode 13)

In the final episode, Cage is given a send off proper by both Sharon Jones and US Marshals as he is escorted out of Harlem.

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